A little over a year ago and probably before, articles started popping up all over the place about selling in tough times, marketing in a down economy and the like. Now that we have started to see a few more positive headlines, what now?
For the sake of prognostication, let me review. No, I am not driving the car by only looking in the rearview mirror.
When times got tough, managers all over the place looked for places to cut costs. Marketers looked for newer places to sell and to sell more. Some business managers cut marketing and sales expenses. Let me state here, once and very clearly, that is the wrong thing to do. Jay Conrad Levinson of guerrilla marketing fame says that "recessionary marketing" is a real opportunity. Bear with me on this review as we approach some new thoughts on "recovery marketing." During tough times, customers are looking for real value. Effective marketing points out that real value to customers with the ensuing result of increased sales and increased share of market.
What Levinson states for "recessionary marketing" applies to "turning-the-corner-and-coming-back" marketing, or "recovery marketing" as well, maybe even more. During recovery, lots of positioning occurs, while at the same time skeptics are still about. During recovery, some people choose as their favorite form of transportation to be hopping on a bandwagon. Once the bandwagon fills up, companies look around at each other and start to feel that it is almost too late to start aggressive marketing once again. The same old adage applies to marketing, much like it does to work: "It's easier to keep it up than catch it up."
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Borrowing from "recessionary marketing" and applying the same mind-set, thought processes and applications to recovery marketing will further separate the marginal companies from the successful ones. Recovery marketing boils down to investing in the three things that should have been invested in when times got tough:
1. Increase the size of orders.
2. Increase the frequency of orders.
3. Increase the number of customers you sell to.
Enhanced marketing programs and increased investment in marketing accomplishes the above items. Free samples, seminars, consulting and speeches are incentives for the customer to buy more and to do it more often. Now is the time to put that marketing line-item expense back into the budget. Prioritize three recovery marketing initiatives now, don't deviate, and certainly don't cut the expense or investment that is made. We'll leave the concepts of consistency, persistency and long-term thinking to other marketing articles.
Here are a few recovery tactics that will help your positioning as customers and prospects decide where to spend their growing dollars earned from a recovering economy:
- Get publicity. If you don't already have a PR program in place, start one now. There are a multitude of reasons to write a press release. Focus on one editor and get something published. This is free marketing and an effective technique that shows up in all the "marketing in tough times" articles.
- Enhance current customer attention. The best prospect is a current customer. This is true whether we are marketing in a recession or in a recovery or in a boom. Pay them the proper amount of attention. Prioritize them and see how far into their account you can gain share. Share of customer is always a priority and will help focus marketing efforts in a recovery.
- Increase networking. Referral programs and word-of-mouth marketing are still low-cost techniques associated with high success rates. There are ways to enhance this, but you have to put yourself in front of the potential buyer in some fashion or another or have someone else do it for you.
- Repackage your products and services as bundles or higher-ticket items. This certainly attains that goal of selling more per order. Customers who have stuck with you through thick and thin will probably spend more in times of recovery.
- Spend some money. Invest in that direct-mail program that you've been putting off. Send that new brochure to customers and prospects. Sometimes positive talk about "preparing for the recovery" is very contagious. You'd be surprised what kind of mind-set you can create in your own market.
These are a few things to get you back on track if you cut that marketing expense (and want to beat the bandwagon hoppers) and want to ride the recovery wave. I can't wait to write the next article in this series about "Marketing In Boom Times!"
Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principal of marketing consulting firm Market For Profits, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at www.market-for-profits.com and www.1-800-inkwell.com. Al invites everyone to sign up for his free report, "50 People to Instantly Add to Your Network." You'll also receive a free online newsletter, "Market For Profits."